Bridenstine Reiterates December Launch to ISS on Track, and Other Space Council Tidbits

Bridenstine Reiterates December Launch to ISS on Track, and Other Space Council Tidbits

As we reported, yesterday’s Space Council meeting focused on the Space Force, but other topics were discussed as well.  Here are some tidbits from Space Council members NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, representatives from the Department of Commerce and Department of State, and the chairman of the Council’s Users’ Advisory Group.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine:

  • reiterated what he said on October 12 that he is “fully anticipating” that the next launch to the International Space Station (ISS) will take place in December as planned despite the October 11 Soyuz MS-10 launch failure.  “We have a really, really good idea of what the issue is” and there will be a “number of Soyuz launches in the next month and a half” before a launch with a crew.  He called it the “most successful failed launch we could have imagined.”  (Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the Council, remarked that the failure was a “wake up call” for the United States to be able to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil and that day is rapidly approaching.)
  • reported that NASA is busy implementing Space Policy Directive-1 (SPD-1), which directs NASA to return astronauts to the Moon and this time it will not be just “flags and footprints.”  SPD-1 is the “bright shiny object that we’re going after” and must be done with a “reusable and sustainable architecture.”  Other countries are eager to participate.
  • asserted that “we are moving rapidly to commercialize low Earth orbit.”  NASA wants to be one customer of many customers, with numerous providers competing on cost and innovation.
  • expressed strong support for SPD-2 (deregulation), SPD-3 (space traffic management) and the Space Force.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao:

  • reported on the Department of Transportation’s  (DOT’s) progress in implementing SPD-2, which directs DOT to modernize regulations for commercial launch and reentry. She said they are “on track to publish a transformative rulemaking,” but did not specify a date.  (SPD-2 calls for it to be done by February 1, 2019.  That is when the notice of proposed rulemaking would be published, not when the new regulations would go into effect since a public comment period is required.)

Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Karen Dunn Kelley (representing Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross):

  • announced that last week the Department of Commerce (DOC) sent draft legislation — the Space Act — to Congress to implement a provision in SPD-2 to consolidate within the Secretary’s office the Department’s responsibilities for regulation of commercial space activities.  Ross earlier announced that he wants to create a Space Policy Advancing Commercial Space Enterprise (SPACE) Administration to oversee DOC’s space responsibilities. Kelley, however, said the draft legislation would create a Bureau of  Space Commerce headed by a Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary reporting directly to the Secretary of Commerce.  It will include “mission authorization” responsibilities (regulations for non-traditional space activities like asteroid mining) and will be a “storefront” for industry within the government.  Already the “reinvigorated” Office of Space Commerce, headed by Kevin O’Connell, is “open for business.”
  • announced that DOC just sent a new draft rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to revise the way cameras in space are regulated so a high school student project is not treated the same way as cameras that “can see your shoelaces from space.”
  • highlighted NOAA’s new GOES weather satellites that were essential to tracking Hurricane Florence.

Andrea Thompson, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs (representing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo)

  • reported that American diplomats are currently at the United Nations engaging in space security issues and discussing cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  The United States is actively seeking constructive partnerships with space-faring nations that share our goals of strengthening the safety, stability and sustainability of their and our space activities.  As the President and Vice President say, America first does not mean America alone.  However, competitors and adversaires are turning space into a warfighting domain and the State Department fully supports the Space Force proposal.

Adm. Jim Ellis (Ret.), Chairman, National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group (UAG):

  • reported that the UAG, which is administered by NASA, has organized itself into six subcommittees:
    • Exploration and Discovery, chaired by Gen. Lester Lyles (Ret.), who is also chairman of the NASA Advisory Council
    • National Security, chaired by Ellis
    • Economic Development and Industrial Base, chaired by Mary Lynne Dittmar (president of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration) and Eric Stallmer (president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation)
    • Technology and Innovation, chaired by Col. Pam Melroy (Ret.), a former astronaut
    • Outreach and Education, chaired by Col. Eileen Collins (Ret.), a former astronaut
    • Space Policy and International Engagement, chaired by David Wolf, a former astronaut

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